Thinking about mortality

Not a fun subject. Sorry. Also likely to ramble. If you were expecting funny, skip this one.

My brother has cancer, which sucks enormously. Dealing with this is hard – on me, on him, on our mom, on my wife and my kids… basically, dealing with death is something humans suck at.

My friend Laurie lost her mom three years ago. She was hit by a distracted driver. I think about that every time I get into the car, and I promise myself I will keep my attention on the road. That won’t bring Laurie’s mom back, of course, but it’s a little thing I can do to remember her and to try to make her death matter.

I don’t know how I can do that for my brother. I don’t know what I can do to try to deal with this.

In a way, I’m lucky – Laurie didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to her mom. We’re all in this world for a limited time, and very few of us get to see our deaths coming. That doesn’t make it any easier. I don’t feel lucky. I just feel sad, and cheated of what I was going to get, and fearful of what a world without my brother will be like.

He’s smart, and he’s funny, and he’s talented, and I love him very much. He’s got the most wicked sense of humor, and he’s an incredibly talented musician, and the world will be so much smaller without him in it.

I talked to my minister today – Victoria Safford at White Bear UU. She’s an incredible speaker, and a really genuinely empathetic person, and it was really good to get a chance to talk to someone that I wasn’t trying to take care of. It’s odd at this stage in my life that I have a minister, and that I have a church. I hadn’t expected to have those things, or to need them, but I am very glad that I have them in my life. Victoria suggested that I take some time every day to get in touch with my grief, because it will be with me forever. I’m going to have to learn to live with it. And to live without my brother.

I don’t know how long we have left. I hope it’s a long while. I fear it’s not. I try not to show that fear, because I want my brother to to keep his spirits up, and to enjoy the time he has. I try not to let my grief overwhelm me, because then I’m no good to anyone. So I stay busy – which is not to say productive, because when you’re trying to avoid something, you do whatever is in front of you, because thinking about what to do can lead to thinking about the exact things you’re trying to avoid thinking about. Sigh.

I love you, Mike. Stick around a while, okay? I’m not done with you yet. There’s nobody else that really gets my jokes.

Thomas Dolby at the Cedar 4/6/2012 (in the American style of dates)

I spent last Friday not gaming, but going to see Thomas Dolby at the Cedar.

Was it worth giving up gaming night? Yes, for two reasons.

First, it was a really good show.


The opening act, bluegrass duo Aaron Jonah Lewis and Ben Belcher, played with considerable skill and a lot of heart, and gave me my favorite moment of the evening. If you have not heard Timing X on fiddle and banjo, you have not truly heard Timing X, even if you’ve heard Devo play it live, which I have. Dolby’s drummer (whose name I cannot recall, which is a shame, because he was excellent) snuck in behind the duo to provide drum accompaniment, which made it even more awesome.

Grade: A. One of the best opening acts I have seen. Paul and Storm are the other contender for “best opener ever.”

Dolby himself put on a great show. As in his Sole Inhabitant tour (which I did not get to see, but have seen video from), one some tracks he built the base of the song in layers, before kicking in along with his guitarist and drummer. Whose names, again, I cannot recall, which annoys me. Be better at being searchable, Internet!

Dolby’s son Graham Robertson (because Thomas Dolby is actually Thomas Robertson when he’s not on stage, as I understand) took over the drums for a couple of songs, which was very cool. It must be very strange and very cool to be a kid (born 1995, Graham must be 16 or 17) playing music with your dad, who originally recorded this song well before you were born. I know Alex sometimes has difficulty understanding that I was ever anyone but “Dad” and the idea of me as a teenager is just weird to him.

The music was excellent, the band was having fun and it was great to see the Cedar packed and Dolby selling out a venue.

Second, I got to spend the night hanging out with my brother Mike, which is a really high priority for me right now.

So yeah, totally worth it. Sorry, D&D gang. I love you all, but my brother wins. And come on, Thomas Dolby. You should have been there.

Dwarven Brewmaster Paragon Path for 4E

Time to get my geek on.

In our long-running 4th Edition D&D game, the party hit 11th level, and thus needed to choose paragon paths. Most of them found something suitable, but Thorin Durthak, the dwarven fighter (played by my old friend Brandt) just wasn’t finding anything particularly interesting.

So we decided to make something up ourselves. How hard can it be?

Paragon paths start with three game effects:
– a path feature that affects gameplay in a persistent way (a feat, more or less)
– an encounter attack power
– an effect that happens when you spend an action point.

The paragon path we decided to invent is the Dwarven Brewmaster, in tribute to the many bad and good beers we’ve consumed during our sessions.

We took advantage of a session where we only had a couple of people available to start with a Vision Quest; Thorin, accompanied by two of his friends, spent a night in a hill giant bar, where he defended the honor of a hill giant maiden from the lord by challenging the lord to a drinking contest. His friends kept the lord’s minions and “hound” at bay with their wits and skills.

Dwarven Brewmaster
“Finish your drinks, boys, for it’s into the gates of Hell we’re headed next. Bottoms up!”

Brewing beer has been part of Dwarven culture since time immemorial. The earliest recipes are primitive by modern standards, including only hops, barley and water. Dwarven ingenuity has led to many different methods of brewing, involving complex apparatus, as well as ever-more-innovative means of storing and transporting beer to preserve its flavor.

Brewmasters are regarded with awe and some degree of fear by the rest of Dwarven society. Their experimentation with new frontiers in the brewing arts can sometimes result in unfortunate side effects, and they tend to be drunk most of the time. The constant drinking makes the Brewmaster resistant to many kinds of effects, and the various exotic brews can have powerful effects.

Path Features:

Refilling Action – when you spend an action point, you may roll a d20 and consult the following table.
1-5 No effect
6-15 Gain an additional use of any one Encounter power you possess
16-19 Gain an additional use of any one Daily power you possess
20 Gain an additional use of any one Daily power you possess and a temporary action point

Half in the Bag – you gain +5 to saving throws against being Dazed, Dominated or Stunned.

Dwarven Brewmaster Attack 11
Encounter – Standard Action
Close Blast 3
Target: Each creature in blast
Keywords: Acid
Attack: Constitution vs. Fort
Hit: Con modifier acid damage, and the target takes Con modifier ongoing acid damage (save ends), and the target must save or be knocked prone.